(It also inspired me to start my education business)
And so, I am sceptical when they get pronounced as extremely important. 'Important to whom?' seems to be the crucial question...
This would be like calling Shakespeare's importance into question.
Milton and Shakespeare touch the lives of anyone who experiences English language and media written in English language. Whether or not this is understood is another question entirely.
Reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons: two people walking out of a theatre showing a Shakespeare play, one saying to the other, "I don't know what the big deal is. It was just one cliché after another."
Once something is so deeply embedded into the fabric of a culture, it becomes the equivalent of "do fish know they are in water?"
Just being in the same room as someone who has understood Dante's Inferno, for example, might well have effects that alter the course of your life.
Proving this would be another thing entirely, however.
I enjoy Paradise Lost because it is cinematic. It may be just me, but it seems like an epic sci-fi space opera. For any lurkers who haven't read it (or recall being miserable being forced to read sections of it in school) I'd highly recommend it. Once you get past the arachaic language and odd sentence structure (it is a poem, after all) you're left with one of the wildest, suspenseful, horrific, adventure stories ever written.
To me, the word important has a distinct prescriptive ring to it. As in "this book is important, therefore you should go read it". The word imfluential is more descriptive and does not have such connotations.
Important: 1.2 (of an artist or artistic work) significantly original and influential. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/important
In this same way Enrique Iglesias would be called "extremely important" by naive musical literaries, Bloodhound Gang would be called "extremely important" by competent scholars; and finally, Pet Shop boys would casually be mentioned as "influential" by Yoda-level master scholars.
One example: It was important to Melville - we actually have his copy of Milton's poetical works (including Paradise Lost) with his notes, underlines, etc that was purchased in 1849. Work on Moby Dick started in February 1850, and Satan was obviously a very strong influence on Captain Ahab.
Great literature helps you understand the world, and yourself. It helps peel back that onion.
Important in the sense that they greatly inspired people to go on and create other works that would go on to touch many lives.
Paradise Lost is one of the single most influential and brilliant pieces of literature in the history of the English language.
I'm sorry, but the idea that a single paragraph HN comment is some kind of deep philosophical point about the nature of authority is absurd. It was a glib dismissive comment, skeptical not for any well-thought out reason, but simply because they personally didn't understand it. I don't know how precisely I'd define anti-intellectualism, but that comes pretty close.
Although I enjoyed it, I think Samuel Johnson was also right when he said that "none ever wished longer than it was."
Like a lot of literature from that time it can be hard to understand without a fair amount of background knowledge in Christian theology. That was taken for granted then (and really up until the 20th century), but makes it operate in a different intellectual universe than many of us do today.
(I mean, I'd totally read that, too)
But yeah, I really enjoyed reading Paradise Lost; I mean, I read everything on the kindle, but I think I need to find a nice bound edition that includes Dore's illustrations.
I also think than Dryden's Aeneiad is as important as Paradise Lost.
Of course Romantic poets brought a different, more familiar set of values to their reading of Paradise Lost, but I think it is more enlightening to understand the poem within the world in which it was written, and appreciate the depth of Milton's commitment to Puritan and Republican ideals even if aspects of them seem alien to the modern reader.